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Preventing food poisoning

To prevent food poisoning, take the following steps when preparing food:

  • Carefully wash your hands often, and always before cooking or cleaning. Always wash them again after touching raw meat.
  • Clean dishes and utensils that have had any contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.
  • Use a thermometer when cooking. Cook beef to at least 160°F (71°C), poultry to at least 165°F (73.8°C), and fish to at least 145°F (62.7°C).
  • DO NOT place cooked meat or fish back onto the same plate or container that held the raw meat, unless the container has been completely washed.
  • Refrigerate any perishable food or leftovers within 2 hours. Keep the refrigerator set to around 40°F (4.4°C) and your freezer at or below 0°F (-18°C). DO NOT eat meat, poultry, or fish that has been refrigerated uncooked for longer than 1 to 2 days.
  • Cook frozen foods for the full time recommended on the package.
  • DO NOT use outdated foods, packaged food with a broken seal, or cans that are bulging or have a dent.
  • DO NOT use foods that have an unusual odor or a spoiled taste.
  • DO NOT drink water from streams or wells that are not treated. Only drink water that has been treated or chlorinated.

Other steps to take:

  • If you take care of young children, wash your hands often and dispose of diapers carefully so that bacteria can't spread to other surfaces or people.
  • If you make canned food at home, be sure to follow proper canning techniques to prevent botulism.
  • DO NOT feed honey to children less than 1 year of age.
  • DO NOT eat wild mushrooms.
  • When traveling where contamination is more likely, eat only hot, freshly cooked food. Drink water only if it has been boiled. DO NOT eat raw vegetables or unpeeled fruit.
  • DO NOT eat shellfish that has been exposed to red tides.
  • If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, DO NOT eat soft cheeses, especially soft cheeses imported from countries outside the United States.

If other people may have eaten the food that made you sick, let them know. If you think the food was contaminated when you bought it from a store or restaurant, tell the store and your local health department.

References

Adachi JA, Backer HD, Dupont HL. Infectious diarrhea from wilderness and foreign travel. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 82.

US Food & Drug Administration website. Food safety at home. www.fda.gov/consumers/free-publications-women/food-safety-home. Updated May 29, 2019. Accessed December 2, 2019.

Wong KK, Griffin PM. Foodborne disease. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 101.

  • Food poisoning

    Animation

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    Food poisoning - Animation

    If you have stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, or nausea a few hours after eating something, chances are you may have food poisoning. Let's talk about food poisoning. Food poisoning happens when you eat food or drink water that's been contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins. Most cases of food poisoning are due to common bacteria, such as Staphylococcus or E. coli. Bacteria may get into your food in different ways. Meat or poultry may come into contact with intestinal bacteria when it gets processed. Water that's used during growing or shipping may contain animal or human waste. Food poisoning may also occur when people handle your food without washing their hands properly, when food is prepared using unclean cooking utensils or cutting boards, when perishable foods are left out of the refrigerator for too long, and when people eat raw foods like fish or oysters or undercooked meats or eggs. Untreated water can also cause food poisoning. So, what do you do about food poisoning? Well, fortunately, you'll usually recover from the most common types of food poisoning within 12 to 48 hours. Your goal should be to make sure that your body gets enough fluids so that you don't become dehydrated. Don't eat solid foods until diarrhea has passed, and avoid dairy products. Drink any fluid (except milk and caffeinated beverages) to replace fluids in your body. If you have eaten toxins from mushrooms or shellfish, seek medical attention right away. The emergency room doctor will then empty out your stomach and remove the toxin. Most people will recover from the most common types of food poisoning pretty quickly. However, if food poisoning leads to dehydration because you can't keep anything down, you should seek immediate medical attention.

  • Food poisoning

    Animation

  •  

    Food poisoning - Animation

    If you have stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, or nausea a few hours after eating something, chances are you may have food poisoning. Let's talk about food poisoning. Food poisoning happens when you eat food or drink water that's been contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins. Most cases of food poisoning are due to common bacteria, such as Staphylococcus or E. coli. Bacteria may get into your food in different ways. Meat or poultry may come into contact with intestinal bacteria when it gets processed. Water that's used during growing or shipping may contain animal or human waste. Food poisoning may also occur when people handle your food without washing their hands properly, when food is prepared using unclean cooking utensils or cutting boards, when perishable foods are left out of the refrigerator for too long, and when people eat raw foods like fish or oysters or undercooked meats or eggs. Untreated water can also cause food poisoning. So, what do you do about food poisoning? Well, fortunately, you'll usually recover from the most common types of food poisoning within 12 to 48 hours. Your goal should be to make sure that your body gets enough fluids so that you don't become dehydrated. Don't eat solid foods until diarrhea has passed, and avoid dairy products. Drink any fluid (except milk and caffeinated beverages) to replace fluids in your body. If you have eaten toxins from mushrooms or shellfish, seek medical attention right away. The emergency room doctor will then empty out your stomach and remove the toxin. Most people will recover from the most common types of food poisoning pretty quickly. However, if food poisoning leads to dehydration because you can't keep anything down, you should seek immediate medical attention.

    A Closer Look

     
     

    Review Date: 9/29/2019

    Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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